Monday, 28 February 2011

Look at reality through the Taylor Wessing Portrait Prize

Went to go and see the last week of the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize at the National Portrait Gallery.

"The Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize 2010 presents the very best in contemporary portrait photography, showcasing the work of talented young photographers and gifted amateurs alongside that of established professionals and photography students.
Through editorial, advertising and fine art images, the entrants have explored a range of themes, styles and approaches to the contemporary photographic portrait, from formal commissioned portraits to more spontaneous and intimate moments capturing friends and family".

What I admired about this years exhibition is the concept of striving to find the 'real' in reality. Every image had an in depth story and truthfulness about it, nothing seemed compositioned in order to express an opinion. (All except Steven Barrittt's admitted self portrait of; Untitled from the series Analogous Mythography in which the arranged detail in this image was cleverly positioned, to form that of an obsessive Britney Spears fan - to put it frankly, though this image is not to be underestimated as simply as that).
Not wanting to take my time I found myself surprisingly encapsulated to stay at each frame longer than Trafalgar's traffic lights; what could be perceived as a simple 'headshot' became, to me, actually a door/window into not only the sitters life, but that of the photographer. By selecting just one image, caught a precise moment of innocent realism, the simple beauty in the photographers connection with the sitter. To me, that is what made the Taylor Wessing Awards the most contemporary and engaging of exhibitions I have seen.

Most of the images varied in content, tone and subject matter. What I was pleasantly surprised by was the amount of portraits that focused on the single female shots. I have to mention Abbie Trayler-Smith, with Untitled 2, (part of an ongoing series), Jeffrey Stockbridge, with Tic Tac and Tootsie (twin sisters Carroll and Shelly Mckean) from the series Nowhere but Here, Panayiotis Lamprou, with Portrait of My British Wife, from the series Human Presence and the first prize to; David Chancellor, with Huntress with Buck from the series Hunters. All of which gained places within this exhibition, all of which focused primarily on the female form/role.

Very interesting work from this years entrants!

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Whitechapel's Current Disturbance

After the excitement with working with Oscar Tuazon's last exhibition, I head straight to the top floor of the Whitechapel Gallery to be recaptured by an exhibit that engulfs the whole room.
OK so the beams of wood are slightly smaller to that of Tuazon's, and OK, yes they don't pummel through the walls to the adjacent rooms. But... engulf, encapsulate and fill this gallery room it does do.

To observe the sheer magnet of this structure from the corner of the room, I am met with a chicken like coop of wooden beams and wire mesh, with singular light bulbs caged within a box within a box within a room.
To stand back and see the simplicity and cleanness of these individually placed bulbs like wounded detainees; bulbs lying on their sides, to the intricate spaghetti-like junctions of wires relevantly (if you look) on show within the middle of this caged structure.

The Northern lights has nothing on this piece of art which continual, through its own workings and patterns, generates the light to simply turn on and off through different degrees of intensity. Surrounded by four speakers the room is alive within the hum of electricity, which feels like a small burning torture of excitement, knowing that the exhibit itself is the performer in control.

This, from reading, seems to be part of what artist Mona Hatoum is exploring, the sense that this installation is creating a liveness, and therefore creating a performance itself. With the visual brightening and darkening of the bulbs to the variant hum from the speakers, it is clear to feel as though I have no control over what I see. Oppressed to stand and watch as the installation takes over, the sense of a singular bulb within a wire cage is a burning image I cannot seem to replace.

Continually thinking....

“Keeping It Real: An Exhibition in 4 Acts” seeks to explore the line between art and reality and the relationship between the artist and the tactile world. British – Palestinian artist Mona Hatoum‘s light-filled creation was first shown in 1996 at the Capp Street Project, San Francisco and is now being shown through March as a part of Whitechapel Gallery’s initiative to open private collections for public viewing". (

Robert Lepage meets The Blue Dragon

"Set in the effervescent paradox that is modern China, this new instalment focuses on Lamontagne’s encounters with a former student classmate and a young Chinese conceptual artist. As the lives of these individuals collide, unexpected doors open, bringing about fundamental changes for each of them".

Packed with high expectations of Robert Lepage's current sequel to his earlier acclaimed The Dragon's Trilogy, I was not disappointed.
Lepage, playing the lead role of Pierre Lamontagne, opened with a soft narrative to the artistic creation of Chinese calligraphy, and how the symbols used create more than a thousands words for merely one image. This introduction to Lepage's character set the tone to the warmth of dialogue that was about to unfold over the next 120 minutes.
The relationships between the three characters was compelling to watch, and felt more like three friends on stage, which reveals the long lasting collaboration between Lepage and Marie Michaud. Their ease of dialogue and constant switching between dialects made the script drift through naturalistic story lines that hooked and drew you into the verging darkness of the story that was about to be approached.
At times I felt compassion, hope and fear for all three, which is a credit to the director and the movement direction given over to them. Not to mention the beautiful movement pieces by Tai Wei Foo, who played the girlfriend in this triangle love affair. Her effortless movements left you spellbound and captured the innocence of her part in this story.

Flawless and magical were the projections and visual media that linked and illustrated the story, in which the 'technicals' and live performance blurred, that I didn't realise the awkwardness that the use of projections can have on performances. Including the use of the new modernisation through the sense of a mandarin KFC advert, which was a pleasant surprise and quite amusing!
The swift transitions between scenes elevated the progression of the story and didn't labour too much on once scene ending and another slowly beginning.

Unfortunately there were parts which did have a tendency to be weighted and drag, which I felt wasn't needed as much. As an audience member I felt the pain and indecision of these characters without having the need for the action to become too static and laboured.

On saying that I very much enjoyed the conclusion, which replayed the last couple of minutes three times, with alternative endings. This left me with the sense of enjoyment and audience power to decipher their own conclusions, and uplifted the story from becoming too dark.
Lepage's performance work cleverly mixes collaborations and media together to present a solid, clear and creative piece of work. Much enjoyed!